Updated: January 10, 2012 11:50AM
Oscar-winner Matt Damon will headline the Chicago premiere of “The People Speak, Live!” on Jan. 31 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark. The benefit performance of dramatic readings and songs will also feature Alana Arenas and Robert Breuler of Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble; local poets Angela Jackson, Kevin Coval, Idris Goodwin, and the Louder Than a Bomb All-Stars; reporter Rick Kogan; civic leader Rami Nashashibi of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network; the Luna Blues Machine band; playwright Lani Montreal; actor Brian Quijada and others still to be announced.
The evening’s material brings to life the history of ordinary people who made the United States what it is today, using the actual words of rebels, dissenters and visionaries. The show is based on the 2009 documentary “The People Speak,” which featured actors and musicians bringing to life the words of John Steinbeck, Frederick Douglass, Woody Guthrie, Muhammad Ali and others. The Chicago live show will feature readings of a 15th century priest documenting Columbus’ arrival in the New World; a fugitive slave’s letter to a former master; the protests of pioneering Chicago labor organizers; testimony of civil rights activists; the music of Woodie Guthrie and Sam Cooke and more.
“It’s an honest and exciting look at where we’ve come from,” Damon said in a prepared statement. “The idea that all of the progress in America towards equality has been struggled for by everyday people, I hope will become a point of discussion for more students of all ages. With ‘The People Speak,’ you’re getting the actual historical text verbatim; there’s no spin.”
Show time is 7 p.m.. Tickets, $11-$99, are available at the Metro box office and online atmetrochicago.com.